Turnpike Company v. Illinois
ERROR to the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois.
This was a proceeding by information in the nature of a quo warranto, instituted on the 13th of October, 1873, in the St. Clair County Circuit Court, Illinois, by the people of the State of Illinois, on the relation of one Bowman, against the St. Clair County Turnpike Company, charging it with unlawfully holding and exercising, without warrant therefor, the franchise of maintaining a toll-gate near Cahokia Creek, upon a street in the city of East St. Louis, called Dyke Avenue, and collecting tolls for passing through the same on said street. The company justified under its charter, or act of incorporation, and several supplements thereto. The plaintiff replied that the land occupied by Dyke Avenue had been dedicated by the owners thereof to the city of East St. Louis, as a public street, and that the legislature, by an act passed March 26, 1869, had granted to the said city exclusive power and control over said Dyke Avenue, and imposed upon it the sole right and duty of granding, filling up, paving, sewering, and otherwise improving and keeping said street in repair, and the right to abate and remove obstructions therefrom. The company demurred, and insisted that this last-mentioned act of the legislature impaired the obligation of the contract made with itself in and by its said charter and the supplements thereto. The County Court, and the Supreme Court of the State, on appeal, held the justification of the company to be insufficient, and gave judgment of ouster.
The company then sued out this writ of error.
The statutes of Illinois bearing upon the question are set forth in the opinion of the court.
Mr. John W. Noble and Mr. John C. Orrick for the plaintiff in error.
The object of the supplement to the charter was to confer a benefit on the company, and, upon the same terms, to add to the franchises previously existing. Pruffett et al. v. Great Western Railroad Co., 25 Ill. 353; Commonwealth v. Hancock Free Bridge Co., 2 Gray (Mass.), 58; Attorney-General v. Germantown, &c. Turnpike Co., 55 Pa. St. 466; Canal Bridge v. Gordon, 1 Pick. (Mass.) 297; Willink v. Morris Canal, 3 Green (N J.), Ch. 377.
Admitting that the right granted to the corporation by the supplement of 1861 was that of the toll-gate on Dyke Avenue, that right, by virtue of the seventeenth section of the charter, continued as long as the corporation; and its purchase by the State was as much a condition precedent to its extinguishment as is the purchase of any other right conferred by the charter. An attempt to extinguish it in any other manner impairs the obligation of the contract contained in the charter, and is unconstitutional and void.
Mr. James K. Edsall, Attorney-General of Illinois, contra.
If the Supreme Court of Illinois was correct in its construction of the act of 1847, and that of 1861, the franchise to collect tolls on Dyke Avenue expired in 1872; and this court will not inquire whether that construction was correct or not. Insurance Company v. The Treasurer, 11 Wall. 204; Kennebec Railroad v. Portland Railroad, 14 id. 23.
The construction given to those acts was the true one. Sedgwick, Const. Law, 338, 339, 342; Angell, Highways, 358; Angell & Ames, Corp. 66; 2 Kent, Com. 276, 298; Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. Canal Com'rs, 21 Pa. 9; Canisius v. Merril, 65 Ill. 67; Chesnutwood v. Hood, 68 id. 132; Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge et al., 11 Pet. 420; Dubuque & Pacific Railroad Co. v. Litchfield, 23 How. 66; Stormfellz v. Turnpike Company, 13 Pa. St. 555.
MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.